Intern Jen Levine – a Clean Energy Summer organizer – putting up posters drawn by City summer camp participants.

Post by Jen Levine
Coming into my first morning at the New Haven/Leon Sister City Project I knew that my work would have something to do with climate change, but I wasn’t quite sure what that would entail nor what skills I would need. During our first meeting, I was assigned the Clean Energy Summer Campaign. The goal of the campaign would be to get as many people to switch to renewable energy as possible, but it was up to Luiza Livingston, a coworker, and I to come up with the rest. Our first step was creating a website with a straightforward description of how to make the switch. Neither of us had done so before, and there was certainly an adjustment period to using new software. However, cleanenergynhv.org was up and running within a week. Luiza and I then created a Facebook page to attract our first set of viewers to the website, and we were able to share it on the New Haven Climate Movement’s (NHCM) page and improve our reach in the community.

We soon began several projects to garner more interest before our launch with Mayor Toni Harp on July 5th. Luiza and Jamie Friedman, another co-worker, began painting two thirty-foot banners to hang above busy areas in New Haven. A video was created by Jennifer Stock and Geremy Schulick, along with several Yale students, to be presented at Friday Flicks through the Parks Department. Jumana Aryan, another coworker, and I were able to reach out to the Yale community through a contact at the Yale School of Public Health. Dr. Robert Dubrow helped us spread the word through mass emails and newsletters and connected us to other schools such as the Yale School of Medicine (YSM) and the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies (FES). We were especially successful through another friend of NHCM, Gabrielle Stack, who was able to reach out to her friends in the postdoctoral community at YSM and switched several to renewable energy. Our success within Yale’s community will continue as a student at FES will be creating a sub-campaign on campus this fall with the goal of converting at least 20 units to renewable energy.

My favorite part of the campaign was working in ten of the City Camps run by the New Haven Parks Department. Through our visits, Luiza and I learned how little climate change education there is in the Greater New Haven school systems. When asked to give a quick definition of climate change, many campers came up with “a change in the weather.” While this is accurate, we broke the definition of climate change down into two parts: good climate change: the natural progression of the four seasons and the small variations in day-to-day weather, and the climate change we were discussing: global warming, destruction of habitats and ecosystems, ocean acidification, and other issues. To get the campers to further understand what this all meant, we asked them to tell us their favorite animals and then explained how those animals were affected by climate change. We went on to ask them what they thought humans were doing to cause such destruction. Here the students excelled no matter the age. They all understood that throwing trash in the ocean, cutting down trees, driving cars, and other actions are harmful to the environment. It gave me hope that they were able to recognize some of the problems, and might come away from our activity trying to change their ways.

We could not simply leave them with all of the harmful things they were doing, so we brainstormed a list of actions they could take to help the environment. The ideas conjured up at the various camps ranged from turning off lights when you leave a room and recycling to getting solar panels and riding your bike instead of driving a car. Luiza and I also gave students another simple way to support the campaign: coloring in posters and bringing home flyers to inform their families about how to make the switch to renewable energy. The students were eager to help and enjoyed having their pictures taken with their posters. The pictures were then posted on our Facebook page and drew a lot of interest to the project.

Overall, my experience working with the campers as well as creating the campaign was rewarding and educational. I will certainly take all of the skills I gained into my future positions, and I look forward to seeing the continued success of my projects as well as what NHLSCP creates in the future.

Jen Levine is a rising sophomore at Davidson College and is from Easton, Connecticut.